26 October 2006 – Team members lining up for Standard Chartered’s Greatest Race on Earth 2006/07 will need to have the lungs of an Olympic rower, the lean physique of a star cyclist, the flexibility of a world champion gymnast, and the gritty determination of a heavyweight boxing champion to stand a chance of success.
This prestigious four-marathon relay requires both extraordinary physical and mental attributes. Amongst the obstacles GROE runners have to overcome are the altitude of Nairobi, the humidity of Singapore, the intense heat of Mumbai, the severe gradients of Hong Kong – and added to all this, the adrenaline and nervous excitement brought by the record US.5 million prize pool on offer.
The physiology of a successful marathon runner is crucial and highly specialised. Dr Greg Whyte, a UK National Physical Sports Science Coordinator, says:
“Perhaps the two most important attributes are their capacity for oxygen consumption and their running economy – expending as little energy as possible whilst maintaining the desired pace.”
When runners reach approximately 30 kilometres in their GROE marathon, their bodies will typically have used all of the glycogen stores in their muscles. Athletes can delay this point (known as “hitting the wall”) through intensive long distance training, eating extra carbohydrates before an event starts, and then running at a steady pace. Those who train at altitude will also have an automatic advantage, as they become used to running in thinner air and thus condition their bodies to cope with less oxygen.
Genetics can also play a key role in determining who will succeed in GROE. Successful marathon runners tend to have slow-twitch muscle fibres and type-II muscles, both of which enable them to run at a steady pace for long periods. Scientific studies on some of the world’s top runners have shown that their muscle fibres convert oxygen into energy much more efficiently than other runners, and their heart-rates stay remarkably low even when running as fast as 25km/h over long distances.
But GROE is not just a physical assignment – those seeking success will have to achieve a perfect combination of psychology and physiology if they are to achieve their goals. Athletes must make sure they are mentally prepared and let nothing deter them from their goals. Dr Dan Tunstall Pedoe, the medical director of the London Marathon, says runners risk falling by the wayside if they put too much pressure themselves:
“It’s crucial to prepare for major races with mental rehearsals. Professional athletes are pushing themselves to higher and higher levels in search of the ultimate prize, and they must be careful to keep their composure in the heat of the battle.”
Those who do this best as a team will reap the rewards, and go down in history as GROE champions.
Note to Editors:
The Standard Chartered Greatest Race on Earth
The Greatest Race on Earth (GROE) was created in 2004 – the first-ever virtual relay race across four marathons. The Main Team Challenge category is open to men and women over 18 years of age, of any nationality, with no restriction on the level of competence. Each team member will run in one marathon. Teams must nominate who will run in each full marathon before the start of the series, and the winning team will be the one whose athletes record the lowest aggregate time across the four marathons.
In 2005/06 the quality of the runners was world-class, with 24 male and 30 female GROE runners placing in the top 10 of each of the four marathons.
Building on the success of the first two series, Standard Chartered presents GROE for the third time. There are over 80 teams and 300 participants taking part. The race covers marathons in Nairobi, Singapore, Mumbai and Hong Kong, representing some of the most challenging environments in the world:
- The highest race at over 1,600 metres in Nairobi – 29 October 2006
- The island race around Singapore – 3 December 2006
- The historic race through Mumbai – 21 January 2007
- The harbour race across Hong Kong – 4 March 2007
The marathons characterise the values and attitude that Standard Chartered believes in, and lives by every day. Partnership, teamwork, trust, courage, willpower, the determination to “go the distance” and a “can-do” attitude, all of which are Standard Chartered core values, will be key factors in determining the winners.
|Main Team Challenge||Prize pool of US$845,000; fastest combined time of four runners across all four marathons (one runner per team per race); top prize of US$400,000; prizes to 5th place. Includes a bonus prize pool of US$200,000 for top five women teams.|
|The Nations Challenge||
Prize pool of US$400,000 – fastest National Athletics Association team time of four runners across all four marathons (one runner per team per race); top overall prize of US$50,000. Teams are also divided into 7 regions – Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, North East Asia, Europe & Oceania, Middle East and Americas, with prizes for teams who finish in top three in each region.
Bonus pool of US$55,000 has been set aside for special achievement awards. These are awarded to national teams that have made a significant improvement on their previous GROE times, and teams that have demonstrated commitment, endeavour and determination in competing in and completing the Greatest Race on Earth
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